RELATED: General Conference delegates discuss A Way Forward.
A longtime United Methodist pastor has begun a campaign to support the Council of Bishops in its One Church Plan in advance of a February special session of the General Conference to decide on human sexuality issues.
Mainstream UMC was co-founded by the Rev. Mark Holland, who has taken a sabbatical after 24 years of ministry, including the past 19 as pastor of Trinity Community Church, a United Methodist congregation in Kansas City, Kansas.
A third-generation pastor, Holland was a clergy delegate to the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon, where he made a motion on the floor asking the bishops to provide leadership on the issue of human sexuality. As a result, the bishops proposed the creation of the Commission on a Way Forward.
The Mainstream UMC fundraising and awareness campaign will roll out fully later this summer, Holland said. He has given one presentation to Salina First UMC, and will give another at 11:45 a.m. Sunday, July 22, at Lawrence First UMC, following its worship services.
Holland said the decision scheduled to be made in St. Louis in February is a “generation-deciding vote.”
“This is the kind of era we’re in, where we’re going to define the structure of the United Methodist Church for the next generation,” he said. “As I reflected on that, I thought it was an important and necessary way for me to spend the next year. “
Groups solidly against the One Church Plan, he said, have staff members in place to oppose it, while there is no staff members whose job it is to support the concept.
“Just from a practical perspective, if we’re not putting boots-on-the-ground resources into plan, this plan is not happening,” he said.
Holland co-founded the group with the Rev. Dr. Nanette Roberts, pastor of Olathe Grace United Methodist Church. Grace’s administrative council voted to handle the income and administration of Mainstream UMC.
“We’re wanting to support the bishops’ best perspectives on what the way forward is for The United Methodist Church,” Roberts said.
After some discussion, Roberts said, her church agreed to work with the Mainstream UMC campaign.
“We are a church that is open and wants everyone to feel welcome. We are not a church that wants to divide over issues of LGBT or any political issue,” Roberts said. “We have too much mission going on, to serve the missions of justice and peace and poverty, and the vision we think that God has called us to serve. Worrying about who loves who is not something we tend to focus on.”
Roberts said she was strongly behind the Mainstream UMC mission.
“The intentionality is to support what the bishops initially wanted, which was the One Church Plan,” she said. “For those who are supportive of that particular perspective, we need to be pretty intentionally focused on advocating for that perspective.”
The initial fundraising has gone beyond expectations, Holland said. His goal of raising $50,000 in 90 days was already broken in three weeks, largely from members of churches in the Great Plains Conference.
Holland attended a Council of Bishops meeting earlier this year and said he found the division evident there similar to what is happening in the rest of the church.
“We’ve done a good job of electing bishops who are representative of the wider church,” he said. “What’s interesting about that is as reflective as our bishops are about our wider church, they voted nearly two-thirds to support this plan. When you have a nearly two-thirds vote to support a plan that creates a big tent where liberals and conservatives can live together in the same denomination, I think that’s good leadership from the bishops, and it really shows that our church can come together, and the bishops are leading the way.”
Holland served as mayor of Kansas City, Kansas, for four years, and was a county commissioner for six years in the combined KCK/Wyandotte County commission.
He said that experience comes into play when developing Mainstream UMC.
“It’s about getting out information,” Holland said. “It’s about helping people hear all sides of the story, and it’s about regular outreach and encouraging and empowering folks to make a good decision.”
David Burke, communications department, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.